A group of Flagstaff residents took to the streets Friday afternoon to protest recent killings of black people by police officers.
The protest, one of many that sparked up around the country, was in response to the death of George Floyd. Floyd was killed after Derek Chauvin, 44, an on-duty police officer, knelt on Floyd's neck while arresting him for allegedly using counterfeit money. The officer was one of four holding a handcuffed Floyd on the pavement, but was filmed pressing his knee into Floyd's neck beyond when he was unresponsive.
In Flagstaff, nearly 100 protesters brought signs and stood on the dried yellow grasses of Flagstaff City Hall holding signs for passing cars. All of the protesters wore masks and upheld social distancing in light of COVID-19 concerns. The demonstration wasn't planned to turn into a march, but the protesters eventually walked from Flagstaff City Hall to Heritage Square and back.
"White silence is white violence," "No justice; no peace; prosecute the police," and some of Floyd's last words "I can't breathe" echoed in the stores and businesses downtown. People shopping or drinking a glass of wine downtown watched the protesters move down the streets -- some shook their head in disapproval, and others came out and clapped in support of the protesters.
Myrka Parra Ortiz organized the event through social media, which was her first time putting together a protest. She said before this she had always shared the footage and stories of violence against black people on social media to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement, but she couldn't restrain her anger any longer.
"Things aren't being done about it," Parra Ortiz said. "I think a lot of it is because people don't get up. They don't make signs. They don't stand in the heat. They're just sharing things on Facebook, which is nice and easy to get the word out."
Soon after the organizer finished her comment, a man in a truck yelled through his car window to the protesters: "It's not about race." One protester yelled back, "it is about race."
Parra Ortiz ran back to the group of protesters and joined in as they began to chant "no justice, no peace" to drown out the man's comments.
The interaction caused a hold-up on the busy section of the street, when a second man got out of his car to talk to the person opposing the protesters. Before police could arrive, the men returned to their cars and traffic went back to normal.
Madison Lisle decided to join the protest because she believes the current criminal justice system has laws that criminalize being poor or a person of color. She said when she saw the video of Floyd, she thought about all of the other people of color whose deaths were not recorded over the centuries and whose names aren't being said like the man from Minneapolis.
"It's one instance, but it's centuries of murders of black people and people of color at the hands of the state," Lisle said. "Just like everybody else here, I'm fed up. I don't know what else to do but donate. I saw this was happening today and decided to come out."
As the protesters chanted and held signs, many honked in support. Some driving by were coming from high school graduations. Some graduates even joined in the chanting and cheering for the protestors as they passed.
Many felt like there was more that needed to be done and more laws that needed to be put in place to stop deaths like George Floyd's from happening.
"People need to do things different than what they've been doing, because what people have been doing isn't working anymore," Parra Ortiz said.
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